Starmer dumps doormat?

Peter Sommer peter at
Sun Jan 16 08:34:14 GMT 2011

In fact you have two bits of legislation to consider.

If you stick to RIPA and interception,  the general view is that 
interception only occurs when something is in the course of transmission 
(as Caspar report).  Once it has been received it is no longer "in the 
course of transmission" so that there is no RIPA offence.

On the other hand,  if you turn to the Computer Misuse Act, 1990,  the 
essence of the offence is unauthorised access to a computer.  "Computer" 
was deliberately not defined in the Act so as to allow for a wide degree 
of interpretation.    As tape-based answerphones vanished many years ago 
one could easily conclude that both desk-based answer phones and the 
systems run by the cellphone companies are "computers".

So the prosecution route is via s 1 CMA 1990 -  maximum punishment (I am 
pretty sure):  5 years.

Peter Sommer

On 15/01/2011 16:43, Wendy M. Grossman wrote:
> I see. Thanks.
> It's amazing how apparently simple things become quite complex when 
> you need to pin them down as specifically as writing a law requires.
> wg
> On 1/15/2011 16:40, Caspar Bowden (travelling private e-mail) wrote:
>> Yates said the following (at Q5):  Hacking is defined in a very 
>> prescriptive
>> way by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and it's very, very
>> prescriptive and it's very difficult to prove.... There are very few
>> offences that we are able to actually prove that have been hacked. 
>> That is,
>> intercepting the voicemail prior to the owner of that voicemail 
>> intercepting
>> it him or herself.
>> The supposition is that Yates was thinking of
>> tory-powers-bill<<<1438 Bassam: ...The definition of "interception" is
>> limited to interception of a communication in the course of its 
>> transmission
>> by certain means. To take one example, a letter which has been delivered
>> through a letterbox and is lying on a doormat is no longer in the 
>> course of
>> its transmission-it has, after all, arrived>>>
>> erception
>> Addressing the home affairs select committee today John Yates, the 
>> assistant
>> Metropolitan police commissioner, repeated earlier claims by police that
>> cases of hacking into voicemails could only be prosecuted if the 
>> victim had
>> not yet listened to their messages. "That is nonsense, and a recurring
>> problem with this police position in this case," said Simon McKay, 
>> author of
>> Covert Policing Law&  Practice. "The police are getting confused about a
>> number of things relating to the evidential status of a voicemail....
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Wendy M. Grossman [mailto:wendyg at]
>> Sent: 15 January 2011 15:52
>> To: cb at; UK Cryptography Policy Discussion Group
>> Cc: Caspar Bowden (travelling private e-mail)
>> Subject: Re: Starmer dumps doormat?
>> Why should whether you've heard the messages or not make any difference?
>> wg
>> On 1/15/2011 10:17, Caspar Bowden (travelling private e-mail) wrote:
>>> e-hacking
>>> The CPS had been of the view that an offence of phone hacking would
>>> require it to be proved that someone had hacked a phone and listened
>>> to a message before the owner of the phone had a chance to hear it.
>>> Now the CPS believes an offence may have been committed if a phone was
>>> hacked and a message listened to by a journalist or private
>>> investigator at any time, even if the owner had already heard it

More information about the ukcrypto mailing list